Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Resolutions: Part 1

I know it's not officially 2013 yet, but I think it's time to talk about a few things that I want to work on for the New Year. I just finished re-reading my favorite childhood book, Matilda, and came across my new motto for 2013:

"Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog."

So, there it is. The quote I'm basing all of my Resolutions around.
There are a few areas of my life that I need to focus on when it comes to this motto. One is getting healthy. I mean, I AM getting married in under 4 (FOUR!) weeks, so I figure I'd better get a move on...
"Getting Healthy" falls into a bunch of categories for me: eating right, we don't eat a lot of garbage, but I need work on no dairy, and low gluten because of all of my family issues.
Working out. We were doing SO well with Crossfit last month, but when our Living Social deal ended, it was too expensive to continue right now. I need to be better about just getting out of the house and walking or running, or even just working out at home. (side note, I'm taking a Barre class in about 45 minutes... woohoo for me!)
Back to the "eating right" part of this whole deal, I pulled out my juicer this morning. I was dying for something fresh and green, after all of the holiday foods I've been consuming for the last 2 weeks.
 She's not fancy, but she works pretty well.

After a trip to Trader Joe's (the first of 2 today, but more about that later), and I came home with this:

Spinach
Romaine Lettuce
Kale
Celery
Apples
Lemon
Cucumber

I chopped the larger pieces up, threw them in, and turned her on...

The whole process took about 8 minutes, and I was left with this

(PS... LOVE these bottles for storing juices. They seal super tight, and are easy to clean with a bottle brush)
I'm going to try and juice a few times a week, I actually love how it tastes, and it's SO good for you.
So, as I run out to get my booty kicked in Barre, I leave you again with my motto for 2013:

"Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog."

In the spirit of "Going the whole hog", you may notice that my photos are looking distinctly un-iPhone-ish...
That's because of this bad boy... 

But more on him later.
Happy 2013 Everyone!
xo,
R





Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Morning...

A trip to the vet (Neville's foot is much better!) and a zillion wedding questionnaires to work on means a busy Friday morning. I'll be back Monday with New Year's Eve plans and other things... I now leave you with this photo that pretty much sums up this chilly morning...

Happy Friday!
xo,
R

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dumplings for Christmas Eve Eve!

We got the most awesome wedding gift last week in the mail from my cousins in Florida! 
I decided we needed a Wok, so at the last minute, I registered for this awesome gift set from Sur la Table. It came with a steamer and a dumpling press! 

It came last weekend and we were dying to use it. So, dumplings for dinner, it was!
I went online and found a recipe, and found it it's SUPER easy. All I needed was
Ground Pork
Shrimp (chopped)
Soy Sauce
Peanut Oil
Green Onions
Pepper
Ginger (grated)
and Won Ton Wrappers.
Easy, right? Well, Whole Foods had everything I needed, except the won ton wrappers. Neither did Trader Joe's, or Lazy Acres. Awesome. So I went back online and found out that won ton wrappers are made from two things:
Hot Water
Flour
SO easy. 
So I made the dough, and while I did that, I prepped the filling.

Once the filling was ready, I used the circular side of the press and cut out my dough 

Laid it on the press

Put a small scoop of filling on it

And closed it up!

Here they are laid out on the steamer basket... 

Then, the steamer basket gets placed on the wok, which has 1/2 inch of water in it

They steam for 8-10 minutes and then you have these!
Dumplings!

Surprisingly, they were pretty perfect. I could have made the dough a little thinner, but still super good. Next time, I think I'm going to try a gluten free flour, and maybe a chicken filling, to see if I can make them Mom and Sammi friendly. With a little cucumber salad and Nigori Sake, it made for a pretty great, and mostly healthy meal!
(Sorry for the horrible photos - as usual...)
xo,
R




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Poor Neville...

Today I planned on posting about this weekend, the food, family, and fun we had. But waking up this morning to a puppy with a (sorry) bloody foot, changed our plans a bit. After an hour at the vet, 3 medications, and a re-check appointment scheduled for Friday, we came home with an uncomfortable puppy with a cone of shame and instructions to keep his foot clean and wrapped. 

Sad pup! Fingers crossed, everything we've gotten will help and Friday we'll get a clean bill of health.
Feel Better, Neville!
xo,
R

Friday, December 21, 2012

Homemade Holiday Gifts!

So, I promised yesterday that I would be back with a post about my holiday gifts, and here I am. With photos... bad ones, of course, but photos!
As I said before, I'm not a great cook/baker, so I decided to make something edible that doesn't have to be cooked, baked, or anything of the sort. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with how they turned out.
It all started with my love of tea. 
I'm not a coffee drinker, I can't do the caffeine, and I'm not a huge fan of the flavor, really.
But I love tea. I love black, white, green, herbal, chamomile, mint, etc. Basically any kind of tea you can make, I'll drink.
I love tea. I've been buying loose green tea for a while and steeping it myself, adding honey or sugar, or even lemon juice. Most of the mixes turn out pretty great.
So, for my gifts, I decided to buy a bunch of loose tea leaves and herbs and mix them myself.
SO easy, and SO good.
I went to the new Lazy Acres market, knowing they sold bulk herbs and spices, and stood in front of the display for a long time, trying to decide which combinations I wanted to try.
Here's what I ended up with:

Chamomile Flowers
White Tea Leaves
China Green Tea Leaves
Rosebuds
Lavender
Fennel
Hibiscus Flower
Peppermint Leaves
I had the T-Sac teabags already
(FYI: bulk spices are usually pretty inexpensive. I think I spent 15 cents on one of them!)

Basically I just made different combinations with a tea base (Chamomile, White, Green) and a flavor (any of the other herbs) 
I played with the amounts and added or subtracted until I got the flavor I wanted.
Then I tied a piece of green thread around it with a little label of the flavor.

Then I picked 3 different flavors, put them in a mason jar topped with parchment and tied with one of the pinecone gift tags that I got from one of the blogs I read... I swear I can't remember which!

So there you have it... My crafty, homemade, no bake/cook holiday gifts!
Happy Happy Holidays Everyone!
xo,
R

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Little Wonky...

I LOVE to bake and cook. LOVE it. Unfortunately, I'm not great at it. My goodies, no matter which recipe I follow, always turn out a little wonky. I'm not sure why. For example, the Boiled Apple Cider Syrup I made either burned, or turned out too runny... Don't get me wrong, we still used it runny, but it wasn't exactly how it was supposed to be. 
I always think of these "Pinterest Fail" photos when I mess something up...

It's kind of the story of my food creation life...

Some of the wonkiness may come also from the fact that I have to substitute ingredients because of my lactose intolerance. Last week, I was craving fudge. So I found a recipe online for a standard Peanut Butter Chocolate fudge. Perfect! I thought, I had everything on hand, even my vegan butter.
Well, it smelled and tasted great, except for one problem...
The oil-based fake butter doesn't harden. So my fudge was more like frosting, no matter how long or how cold it got.
It kinda looked like this...

Wonky, again. 
(I just love these photos!)
So, when I was thinking about what I wanted to gift people for the holidays, I was having a hard time deciding. I couldn't think of anything to craft, All baked goods are bound to turn out a little off, and I didn't want to spend a ton of money on alcoholic beverages. I was pretty bummed out, but then yesterday, I had a great idea... I finally figured out something that I'm pretty versed in, tastes good, and is REALLY hard to screw up...
I made a few samples yesterday, and they turned out pretty awesome... 
I'm pretty proud of myself, actually...

I'll post about it when I make them all pretty, and actually take photos!
xo,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Would Take...

All this talk about packing up house and moving lately has got me thinking. What if we moved into a SMALLER place? If we had to pare down everything we had, what would come, and what would go? Of course, there's the necessities: bed, sofa, etc. But, if I had to pare down the little "things" that I have, or non-necessities, it would be REALLY tough! Lots of things I own have a ton of meaning behind them, and I don't know what I would do if I  couldn't take them (probably pawn them off on my family). 
But, here's my list, boiled down to 5... I guess they would be my favorite "things"
(not including the artwork that was passed down from my grandparents)

This Cake Stand

Not just because it holds my gin, but it belonged to my grandmother (dad's mom). She is an amazing baker, and used it all her life for cakes, cookies, etc. I love the color, and the fact that it can be used for anything, anywhere... from cakes or cookies, to perfume, or even booze.

This Ceramic Egg Crate

This is just a random one. It's just so much nicer than the cardboard egg crates. It makes me smile when I open the fridge... Fancy, I know...

This Heart

Sorry for the TERRIBLE photo. It hangs above our bed and the wall did not lend itself for good lighting.
This heart is tiny, about 3 inches, and it was wrapped around the box holding the necklace Andrew gave me for Valentine's Day when we got back together for good. I've since lost that necklace, and had it replaced, but the heart symbolizes so much for us, and it will go with us wherever we go.

This Shit Sign

My grandmother (mom's mom) was like Mary Poppins. So proper, put together, and "Practically Perfect in Every Way". This Shit sign sat on her desk my entire life. I think she actually bought it in the 70's. After she was gone, and my grandfather passed, we were cleaning out the house and I found it. It now sits on my desk as a daily reminder that even when things are shit, they can still be pretty at the same time.

This Poster

The proposal poster. Andrew designed this himself, and he actually used it to propose to me. Yes, it is a quote from Harry Potter, and yes, I'm a major dork and cried like.a.baby. when I read it, but it's SO us. It's hanging in the living room right now, and will forever, wherever we go. 

That's my list, 5 things.
As long as I have those, Andrew, and Neville, (and my grandparent's art) I'm good to go.
xo,
R






Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Books... Lots of Books...

In our house, we (I) read a lot. That means I (we) have a LOT of books. I mean a LOT. We have all sorts of books: paperback, hardback, coffee table sized, pocket sized. A TON of books. Everything from Fairy Tales, to Chick Lit, to school books I never returned (whoops), to Architecture (tons and TONS of architecture books, to French for Dummies. 
We have TONS of books. Unfortunately, something we do NOT have TONS of, is space. For books. Or more importantly, wall space for book cases/shelves. I've tried to pare them down, but it's SO hard. I'm that girl that reads books over, and over (and over... see my copies of Harry Potter), and I can't seem to get rid of any of them! I also am not able to recycle them either... A book is a book! It's a BOOK! Not just paper that can be reused!!! (I know, I'm a little nuts when it comes to them... Sorry.)

Back to the books in our house, and how we have no space...
This is our one true bookcase, the only one we really have room for... and guess what? It holds mostly Andrew's books... But if you can look close... some of my larger books are shoved in there. He may not have noticed that yet...

So, since that's the only bookcase we actually have room for, here's how the rest of them get stored...
On the (newly painted) file cabinet.

At the end of the bar (only special books get that spot)

On the coffee table (again, special books)

And my personal favorite... In the closet. Notice how the shelf is sagging in the middle.

(There are others stashed around the house also: kitchen, bedside, closet, maybe even in the bathroom...
Andrew knows that when we build our own home, it has to have enough space for books...

Maybe a whole wall like this

Or a whole room like this

Or just a whole bunch of these

But we definitely need more than what we have now!

Now, the books in the closet are books that I've finally decided that I can let go. BUT I'm not recycling them, or giving them away... That would be too easy, and as I've stated, I have a problem with that...
I'm REPLACING them. 
There's a used bookstore in Bixby Knolls and I'm going to bring them there, for credit. But not just for credit for more random books. I have a mission. 
Some of my favorite books are books I read as a child. 
Books such as
Matilda 
(my ALL time favorite)
And, A Wrinkle in Time 
(another amazing one)

 So, I have a list (of about 30) books from my childhood that I will be searching for in used bookstores. I want my children someday to be able to experience the same books I did as a child... The girl that learned to read at age 4 and has never stopped...

xo,
R






Monday, December 17, 2012

On Aprons & Quinoa...

Friday night was the Holiday International Potluck at AGA. It's one of my favorite things ever. Mainly because I love food, but also because the families at the gym make their own specialty dishes, usually from their culture. And they usually make some of my favorite dishes.
It also happened to be my longest day at work, the day of the horrible massacre in Connecticut, and the 7th night of Hanukkah. I was having trouble deciding what I wanted to bring to the party, and spent part of the day before, reading through all of my favorite blogs to find some of their go-to recipes. Girls Gone Child is a new favorite of mine. Rebecca lives in LA with her husband and 4 young kids. She had posted about her Quinoa "Informal Gathering" Salad a few times now and I was intrigued. Lucky for me, I had most of the ingredients on hand. A quick trip to Whole Foods (twice, because the soy yogurt I got that was labeled "PLAIN" was actually VANILLA)

Girl's Gone Child Quinoa "Informal Gathering" Salad
1 Box Quinoa (I used about 3 cups)
1 Jar Roasted Red Peppers (Traders Joe's are the best)
1 Bell Pepper
Cilantro
Corn (She uses fresh from the cob, I used frozen)
Plain Yogurt (I used Soy)

Make the quinoa as directed. Pour hot quinoa over roasted peppers and frozen (or raw) corn so it will partially cook.

 Add raw pepper, cilantro. Mix thoroughly. Add yogurt. Mix REALLY well.
Serve chilled.

Done. SO yummy. It was a hit at the potluck. There was SO much amazing food, from empanadas, to lumpia, to humus... SO MUCH FOOD! After the events that unfolded across the country that day, we were all grateful for some normalcy in our lives, and that we were able to spend such a fun evening with all of the girls at the gym. 

Friday was also the 7th night of Hanukkah, and the last night Andrew and I were exchanging gifts. (We only did 4 gifts this year, one every other night) 
I gave him some new Nike shorts for cross fit, and he got me something I've wanted for a while, and only mentioned once...

An apron from Anthropologie. I'm a HUGE mess in the kitchen, whether I'm actually cooking/baking, or washing dishes. I usually come out covered in whatever it is I'm making, or soaking wet from the dishes. I love this one! And it has pockets! I'm still recovering from this crazy long weekend... Photos soon from Saturday's bachelorette party!
xo,
R

Friday, December 14, 2012

Connecticut.

Today, I woke up and had a million things to do. I literally didn't even touch my computer. I went to Whole Foods, made a salad for our potluck tonight, did my hair, and it wasn't until I dropped Neville off at doggy day camp and ran into a friend, that I even heard that anything out of the ordinary was happening across the country. I turned on the radio and heard bits and pieces about  Newtown, and when I got to work, my coworker was staring at the computer screen with a horrified look on her face. That's when I opened my computer and learned about the events unfolding.
20 kids.
7 adults.
All gone.
Unbelievable.

I'm not a mom, but I work with kids everyday. Everyday I see at least 100 kids. None of them are MINE, but they're all part of my life. I have a hard time when they move away from the gym, or even out of my class. I can't imaging them being gone. Really gone. I can't even pretend to imagine what it must feel like to be part of that, in any aspect. 
I cried when the newscaster said he could see parents walk out "arm in arm, no children in tow". I cried when I saw the photos of the children walking single file with the teachers leaving the campus, and I cried when President Obama cried while addressing the public. 
My thoughts and prayers go out to Newtown and the community, the families, children, faculty, and staff. Hugs and prayers. 
xo,
R

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pinterest Picks 12.13.12

For 12.13.12: Wedding Crafts Edition







This Backdrop









































Dairy Free Pesto

Yesterday, while reading one of my daily blogs, I can't remember which, I came across This Blog. Heidi blogs about her life as a gluten free mom and has TONS of recipes for all different types of food allergies. I came across This Recipe for dairy free pesto! Now, although I'm dairy free most of the time, I allow myself a little parmesan every once in a while because for some reason, it doesn't effect me as much. I've been using it in pesto, because I really thought I HAD to... 
Well, now I know I don't!
Heidi's recipe for Dairy Free Pesto
calls for

Basil
Olive Oil
Nuts (I used almonds)
Garlic
And instead of the parmesan: Lemon and Sea Salt!
(It makes total sense... the parm adds a salty/tangy aspect... so the lemon and sea salt are perfect)
Her recipe has actual measurements, I just threw it all in my food processor until it looked like what I wanted it to. 

Here it is! All chopped and mixed up!

The verdict: SO good! It has a little bit of a different bite than if I had used the cheese, but it definitely held up. We tossed it with gluten free paste, and sautéed mushrooms and zucchini. SO yummy. Definitely on my recipe list from now on.
And once again, I don't have a photo of the actual pasta, because I'm a terrible blogger... and we were starving.
xo,
R

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Last Sunday...

In the midst of all the craziness with work and the Holiday Show, planning the wedding, dress fittings, and Hanukkah, we decided at the last minute to have a few friends over for cocktails last Sunday. Andrew's birthday was the Tuesday before, so we called it a Late Birthday/Hanukkah gathering. 
(Plus, Andrew needed an excuse to try out the cocktails we'd been making, on other people, and I wanted to put together a party spread)

So we did just that. A quick trip to Trader Joe's (again) and we came up with this menu:

Bacon Wrapped Dates (as you know, my favorite)
Homemade Sriracha Humus
Caprese Skewers
Sausage and Cheese Bites (with assorted crackers)
Gingerbread Cake Squares (for something sweet)
Everything turned out pretty great, especially the Dates... SO easy, and SO good

 The Caprese Skewers were the easiest to make. Plus, they look so nice on the platter!
(ignore the inside of my fridge)

Caprese Skewers:
Marinated Mozzarella Balls (You can use plain also)
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
Basil Leaves
Skewer. Done.

I've been making the Sriracha Humus for a while now. This was the first time I've used it at a party. It seemed to go over really well!

Sriracha Humus:
2 Cans Garbanzo Beans (one drained, one not)
2-5 Cloves minced Garlic, depending on your preference
Tahini (to taste. I like a lot)
Lemon (to taste. I like a lot)
Salt & Pepper
Sriracha (to taste.)
Put all ingredients in a food processor until desired consistency. Serve with Pita, Crackers, or Veggies.

Oh the Dates. The Bacon Wrapped Dates. SO EASY. 

Bacon Wrapped Dates:
Bacon
Dates (pitted)
Wrap Bacon around Dates. Bake at 350 until browned. Heaven.

The Gingerbread Cake was a last minute addition. I had planned on cookies, but Trader Joe's had samples ready when we were shopping, so naturally I tried one, and naturally I bought a box.

Gingerbread Cake:
Follow instructions on box.
Boom. Done.

Of  course, me and my terrible photo taking skills, didn't take ANY photos of the people, or the gathering itself. Or any of the drinks. I know, I know, I'm a terrible blogger... I'm still getting used to the fact that everything can be put into a post, and that I need to take photos of every.little.thing.
But, at least you get photos of the food, and if you ask me, that's the important part!
xo,
R